Ever wondered what a sandwich tern eats for lunch? Wait for it…. Here comes the punchline… sandeels, sprats and whiting.
Sorry about that. You were probably expecting something funny but instead I just told a fact. But this amazing photo of a sandwich tern catching its lunch will definitely make up for my failed joke.
Personally, I prefer tuna mayo (photo courtesy of Nature’s Home reader Andy Leonard)
Sandwich terns are a fantastic migrant species that you can see in the UK from March to September. Most of the UK’s important colonies are usually on nature reserves providing them with the protection they need to survive.
Thanks to Andy Leonard for sending us this magnificent photo from his trip to Ythan Estuary in Aberdeen, Scotland. An important home to a mixed colony of Arctic, little, sandwich and common terns.
Send your photos to firstname.lastname@example.org for a chance to appear as photo of the week.
We hope you’re enjoying the new issue of Nature’s Home, currently reaching homes across the UK. It’s packed full of things to see and do this season - here’s just a small selection of creatures to look out for in the coming weeks.
Winter waders at their summery best
Catch a dunlin in its summer plumage. (Photo: Mike Langman, rspb-images.com)
Early-returning Arctic waders are still in their breeding finery when they first arrive. Take a look at grey plovers, knots, godwits, turnstones or dunlins this month - they are stunning.
As an example, a bar-tailed godwit looks like a different bird in summer; its head and front flame with chestnut orange, fading to speckled buff later in the year. Turnstones love harbours, sea walls and jetties - look out for their coppery summer plumage and the habit that gives them their name - turning over stones to find morsels beneath.
When: Head to the coast in the next few weeks; bright summer plumage will start to fade in the months ahead.
Where: These shoreline birds haunt our coasts, feeding on rocky shores, muddy harbours or estuarial shallows. For reserves, try RSPB Blackfoft Sands, RSPB Snettisham, RSPB Newport Wetlands or RSPB Langstone Harbour.
Find a hornet hoverfly
The large but harmless Volucella zonaria disguises itself as a hornet - but those big ‘fly eyes’ give it away. (Illustration: Chris Shields, rspb-images.com)
Our two biggest hoverflies may take you by surprise this summer, perching on flowers or buzzing past. Both the hornet hoverfly and lesser hornet hoverfly are great hornet mimics, hence their common names.
These pollinating hoverflies only colonised the UK during the 1940s. At 2cm long the honey overlay looks beefy and dangerous, but this is a ploy to deter predators; it’s completely harmless. Not only that, but its larvae thrive in active wasps’ nests without getting stung, and repays its hosts by cleaning up their debris and rubbish inside the nest.
When: Peaking in August, lingering until October.
Where: Woodland, parkland and gardens in London and the South of England. Now spreading north into Midlands and as far as Cheshire.
Listen out for bush crickets
Great green bush crickets are noisy at night. (Photo: Ben Andrew, rspb-images.com)
Bush-crickets are much easier to hear than to see. Getting a view of one in the vegetation is not easy, but start by following the sound (stridulation) to see where it takes you.
Crickets stridulate by rubbing their wings together, unlike grasshoppers which use one leg as a ‘violin bow’ to rub against their wings.
They’re noisiest at night or dusk; tread carefully to see if you can creep up on one with a torch. Great green bush crickets are our largest; speckled bush crickets are arguably our most widespread; or see if you can track down a dark bush or Roesel's bush-cricket this August. Click here for a species guide.
When: Crickets are coming to maturity in August, having hatched in May or June. If the good weather continues into autumn, so will they.
Where: Dry vegetation, grasses and hedgerows are a great place to start - and there’s plenty of those around at the moment! But crickets can turn up anywhere; inside your tent, among your picnic, on park benches, windowsills and all sorts of foliage, so keep an eye out.
Enjoy a painted lady
Vanessa cardui, the painted lady, can travel long distances, and is found across the world. (Photo: Chris Gomersall, rspb-images.com)
Painted ladies are an enigmatic butterfly species in the UK, arriving in huge numbers some summers, with hardly any in others!
They come here to lay their eggs. Thistles are their preferred nursery, but nettles and mallows also feature in their early life cycle, and caterpillars will pupate among these plants until they emerge as adults in August. Come autumn, they’ll flutter all the way to northern Africa in autumn rather than hibernate here; though some won’t make it.
Will it be a painted lady August? See how many you can find in the coming weeks.
When: August is peak painted lady time; they may linger until October if the weather’s OK.
Where: These butterflies drink nectar from sunlit flowers (which sounds a very enviable lifestyle to me!)… so just follow the bees and keep your eyes out!
Tell us what you find! Log in to comment below, or email us.
If your lawn is anything like mine, it probably resembles a desert at the moment, both in its sandy colour and in dryness. I can’t recall such a long, hot dry spell for many years and there is no doubt that it’s starting to make life tough for some of our wildlife. Jack and I discovered a fire here at RSPB The Lodge on Friday due to a discarded cigarette, so be super careful as it is unbelievably dry in places.
Hard ground can make it tough for all sorts of birds and animals to find food so I was pleased to peer out of my upstairs window just before I went to bed last night to see a dark “box” by the bird table that I didn’t remember being there before. Once it moved, I realised it was a big male badger and ended up watching it for 15 minutes or so as it fed on the lawns before going to the pond and having a couple of sips from the rapidly diminishing waters and exiting stage left to the field and sett area adjacent to us.
A dry lawn is still good foraging ground for badgers - this one's in my garden (image cMark Ward)
A double mammal whammyIt glanced up and drew my attention to a rather gangly legged fox cub on the lawn, which was the first I’d ever seen actually in our garden. We have a badger sett and fox earth right next to our garden and although the badgers commute between gardens and the field nightly, foxes have never actually come into the garden before, so perhaps a sign of finding things a bit tough.
After I’d been “glow-worming” at my local wood last week, I arrived home to find a hedgehog on one of the front lawn areas that’s shared between the three houses in our block. We see the infrequently but it’s another one to keep an eye out for on your lawn.
No, it's not an alien life form - it's a glow-worm doing what it does best (image cMark Ward)
This all got me thinking about how important all the lawns are in the UK. I wonder how much space they cover in total and just how many worms and other creatures are living in lawns?
Cracking upLawns are also really important space for birds. Thrushes and starlings find food in them and green woodpeckers use their super long tongues to probe cracks and crevices for ants. It's really tough for the former two at the moment but with all the cracks opening up, I reckon green woodpeckers will be doing ok at least when it comes to finding food.
Not the world's best shot of a hedgehog but a quick record shot of a sadly much-declined species (image cMark Ward)
It’s a tricky summer in many parts of the UK for making your lawn great for wildlife, but take a look at our advice for making a lawn for wildlife for some ideas - perhaps for when the dry spell is over - and let’s hope we get some rain soon everywhere in the country. We'll be making a meadow area in the autumn, so I'll let you know how that goes! For now, remember to keep your birdbath topped up and put out some extra sources of water for wildlife because it really needs a helping hand.